Spy Games


Well, this film only goes to show that even a genius has an occasional bad day – or in this case a bad film. Tsui Hark (producer) and Film Workshop have given us so many classics over the years that one is genuinely surprised to come across one like this. They appear to have lowered their ambitions dramatically with this seemingly cut and paste production in 1989. Perhaps it looked good on paper - a light farce of mistaken identity, cross cultural confusions, cold war intrigue, a chic gun carrying Joey Wong and Kenny Bee in low key charming mode singing a few tunes – but director David Wu (Bride with White Hair II) just never pulls it all together into a cohesive whole.
Bits of the film work well and do create some nice comedic moments, but the flow of the film and the transitions from scene to scene are amazingly awkward and amateurish. Layer on top of this, a plot that has to shoehorn a number of Japanese actors into the proceedings (probably due to some Japanese financing of the film I assume) and it gives the film an overall convoluted slap-dash pace and feel.
A birthday prank played on Japanese pop star Noriko Izumoto has her believing that her long missing father is being held captive by spies in a castle in Hong Kong. So without telling her manager and band, she boards a plane to go rescue him. Inadvertently, she really does get mixed up with members of the C.I.A. and KGB who both think that she is an informer for the other agency. At the same time, she manages to turn the life of newsman Kenny Bee upside down by having him lose his job, his girlfriend and his apartment. All in a days work for this walking disaster area.
Her friends from Japan come to HK looking for her and are assisted by super cop Joey Wong in tracking Noriko down. Since neither speaks the other’s language, all their communication is done in painfully fractured English. It is sort of fun watching Joey struggle with English but the film comes to a dead halt as the actors search desperately for their next line. Of course, the Americans in the film who are speaking in English are just as bad – another HK case of finding the worst Gweilo actors available. What bar do they find these Gweilos in anyway?

Kenny Bee plays a totally incompetent news anchorman who constantly messes up on air – from having coughing fits to wearing no pants – and his life is already under the gun from his boss, Phillip Chan, and his friend and rival newsman, Waise Lee. And then Noriko hits his life like a high velocity tornado.

In films like this you search for a few good moments to keep you going – Joey’s first appearance as she turns around – hair swirling in slow-mo and a come hither look on her face that knocks you to your knees, Kenny Bee, Waise Lee and tough guy Michael Chan singing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” and a concert number performed by Kenny and Noriko that is really quite good.  Those and a few sweet scenes would be about it in this limp and listless comedy. For Joey fans, I should mention that she doesn’t really make an appearance until the 40 minute mark and is only in it sporadically from then on.

My rating for this film: 4.5